Populus nigra var betulifolia

Black poplar, one of our few native kinds, is an uncommon tree. It has been supplanted for commercial planting by the hybrid cultivars that are described on the following pages. Since poplars are not long-lived trees it is tending to vanish from the country scene. Black poplar seldom produces sucker shoots; wild trees are only renewed by seed.

This tree is called 'Black' only by way of contrast to the White and Grey kinds. Its bark is pale brown and more rugged than that of other poplars. As our photo shows, it forms an upright well-balanced tree having rather random branches retained low down, and a bole that carries typical swellings, which often bear short side shoots. Its leaves are diamond-shaped to oval and, on average, smaller than those of die more popular hybrids. The flowers are typical of the genus, but the female catkins tend to be short and stubby (see Figure 57).

Black poplar is a hardy and reliable tree, but since it lacks the remarkable hybrid vigour of the cultivars it holds no attractions for the timber grower. There is the odd tree growing wild, or cultivated in a park or botanic garden, in the eastern counties of England, though its natural range extends right across the Midlands to the Cheshire plain. Large trees are rare, those recorded as Black poplars' usually proving to be hybrids. A superb tree at Christ's School near Brecon is 33.5 X 2.09m.

figure 56

Winter twig (life size) and bud (*5) of Black poplar. Populus nigra. Both are remarkably angular.

Populus Nigra Female Flower

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Female catkins of Black poplar, Popvifos mgrj (life size) with a single female flower and bract scale (XIO.) The flower consists of a four-styled carpel carried on a green cup: the bract scale soon falls off.

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